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Writing Business MessagesChapter 5 Writing Business Messages Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Learning Objectives Identify the four aspects of being sensitive to audience needs when writing business messages Explain how establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image are vital aspects of building strong relationships with your audience LEARNING OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you will be able to do the following: Identify the four aspects of being sensitive to audience needs when writing business messages Explain how establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image are vital aspects of building strong relationships with your audience Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Learning Objectives Explain how to achieve a tone that is conversational but businesslike, explain the value of using plain language, and define active and passive voice Describe how to select words that are both correct and effective Define the four types of sentences, and explain how sentence style affects emphasis within a message LEARNING OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you will be able to do the following: 3. Explain how to achieve a tone that is conversational but businesslike, explain the value of using plain language, and define active and passive voice 4. Describe how to select words that both correct and effective 5. Define the four types of sentences, and explain how sentence style affects emphasis within a message Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Learning Objectives Define the three key elements of a paragraph, and list five ways to develop unified, coherent paragraphs Identify the most common software features that help you craft messages more efficiently LEARNING OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you will be able to do the following: 6. Define the three key elements of a paragraph, and list five ways to develop unified, coherent paragraphs 7. Identify the most common software features that help you craft messages more efficiently Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Adapting to Your AudienceWhat’s in this for me? Style and Tone Relationships Sensitivity Information Expressing ideas clearly and persuasively starts with adapting to one’s audience. Whether consciously or not, audiences greet most incoming messages with a selfish question: “What’s in this for me?” If your intended audience members think a message does not apply to them or does not meet their needs, they will not be inclined to pay attention to it. To adapt to your audience in a way that provides a compelling answer to the “What’s in this for me?” question, be sensitive to your audience members’ needs, build strong relationships, and control your style to maintain a professional tone. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Being Sensitive to Your AudienceIf your readers or listeners do not think that you understand or care about their needs, they will not pay attention, plain and simple. You can improve your audience sensitivity by doing the following: Adopting the “you” attitude Maintaining good standards of etiquette Emphasizing the positive Using bias-free language Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Using the “You” AttitudeSpeaking Writing Audience Approach your messages by adopting a “you” attitude––that is, speaking and writing in terms of the audience’s wishes, interests, hopes, and preferences. Too many business messages have an “I” or “we” attitude. The message tells what the sender wants it to, and the audience is expected to go along with it. On the simplest level, adopt the “you” attitude by replacing terms that refer to yourself and your company with terms that refer to your audience. In other words, use you and yours instead of I, me, mine, we, us, and ours. The “you” attitude is not just a matter of using one pronoun rather than another; it is a matter of genuine empathy. It is the thought and sincerity that count, not the pronouns. The important thing is your attitude toward audience members and your appreciation of their position. Wishes Interests Hopes Preferences Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
“You Attitude” Instead of This Write ThisTuesday is the only day that we can promise quick response to purchase order requests; we are swamped the rest of the week. If you need a quick response, please submit your purchase order requests on Tuesday. On the simplest level, you can adopt the “you” attitude by replacing pronouns such as I, me, mine, we, us, and ours with you and yours. Messages that emphasize “I” and “we” risk sounding selfish and uninterested in the audience. Such messages feel like they are all about the sender, not the receiver. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Maintaining Standards of EtiquetteConsideration Courtesy Diplomacy Practice business etiquette by being courteous to members of your audience. You will show consideration for them and foster a more successful environment for communication. Moreover, venting your emotions rarely improves a situation and can jeopardize your audience’s goodwill. Therefore, be diplomatic by controlling your emotions and communicating calmly and politely. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Maintaining Standards of EtiquetteInstead of This Write This Once again, you’ve managed to bring down the entire website through your incompetent programming. You’ve been sitting on our order for two weeks, and we need it now! Let’s review the last website update to explore ways to improve the process. Our production schedules depend on timely delivery of parts and supplies, but we have not yet received the order you promised to deliver two weeks ago. Please respond today with a firm delivery commitment. Good etiquette not only indicates respect for your audience but also helps foster a more successful environment for communication by minimizing negative emotional reaction. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Emphasizing the PositiveDuring your career, there will be many occasions where you will need to communicate bad news. Sensitive communicators understand the difference between delivering negative news and being negative. Never try to hide the negative news, but look for positive points that will foster a good relationship with your audience. If you are trying to persuade your audience to perform a particular action, point out how performing this action will benefit them. In general, try to state your message without using words that might hurt or offend your audience. Substitute euphemisms (milder synonyms) for terms with unpleasant connotations. That way, you can be honest without being harsh. However, remember that you walk a fine line between softening the blow and hiding the facts when using euphemisms. Even if it is unpleasant, people respond better to an honest message delivered with integrity than they do to a sugar-coated message that obscures the truth. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Emphasizing the PositiveInstead of This Write This It is impossible to repair your laptop today. We wasted $300,000 advertising in that magazine. Your computer can be ready next week. Would you like a loaner until then? Our $300,000 advertising investment did not pay off. Let’s analyze the response and apply the insights to future campaigns. You will encounter situations throughout your career in which you need to convey unwanted news. However, sensitive communicators understand the difference between delivering negative news and being negative. Never try to hide the negative news, but look for positive points that will foster a good relationship with your audience:2 Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Using Bias-Free LanguagePerception Prejudices Disability Age Gender Race or Ethnicity Labels Stereotypes Bias-free language avoids unethical, embarrassing language blunders related to gender, race, ethnicity, age, and disability. Biased language is not simply about “labels.” Instead, language reflects the way people think and believe; therefore, biased language may perpetuate the underlying stereotypes and prejudices that it represents. Moreover, because communication is all about perception, simply being fair and objective is not enough. You must also appear to be fair. As the list below indicates, bias can take many forms: Age bias. As with gender, race, and ethnic background, mention the age of a person only when it is relevant. When referring to older people, avoid such stereotyped adjectives as spry and frail. Gender bias. Avoid sexist language by using the same label for everyone (do not call a woman chairperson and then call a man chairman). Reword sentences to use they or use no pronoun at all. Vary traditional patterns by sometimes putting women first (women and men, her and his). Disability bias. Avoid mentioning a disability unless it is pertinent. Put the person first and the disability second. Racial and ethnic bias. The central principle is to avoid language suggesting that members of a racial or an ethnic group have stereotypical characteristics. The best solution is to avoid identifying people by race or ethnic origin unless such a label is relevant. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Overcoming Bias in LanguageExamples Unacceptable Preferable Gender Bias Using words containing man Man-made Mankind Manpower Businessman Salesman Artificial, Humanity Workers Executive Salesperson Disability Bias Putting the disability before the person Disabled workers face many barriers on the job. Workers with physical disabilities face many barriers on the job. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Building Strong RelationshipsFocusing on your audience’s needs is vital to effective communication; however, you also have your own priorities as a communicator. Two key efforts help you address your own needs while building positive relationships with your audience: establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image. Establish Your Credibility Project Your Company’s Image Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Establishing Your CredibilityHonesty Objectivity Awareness Credentials Endorsements Performance Confidence Communication Sincerity The following characteristics can help you to establish your credibility: Honesty. Demonstrating honesty and integrity will earn you the respect of your colleagues and the trust of everyone you communicate with, even if they do not always agree with you. Objectivity. Distance yourself from emotional situations and look at all sides of an issue. Audience members want to believe that you have their interests in mind, not just your own. Awareness of audience needs. Let your audience know that you understand what is important to them. Credentials, knowledge, and expertise. Every audience wants to be assured that the messages they receive come from people who know what they are talking about. Endorsements. If your audience does not know anything about you, you might be able to get assistance from someone they do know and trust. Performance. It is easy to say you can do something; following through can be much harder. That is why impressive communication skills are not enough. People need to know they can count on you to get the job done. Confidence. Show the audience that you believe in yourself and your message. Communication style. Support your points with evidence, not empty terms such as amazing, incredible, or awesome. Sincerity. When you offer praise, avoid exaggeration. Instead, point out specific qualities that warrant praise. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Projecting Your Company’s ImageBe a Spokesperson Follow Guidelines Observe Colleagues When you communicate with outsiders, on even the most routine matter, you serve as the spokesperson for your organization. The impression you make can enhance or damage the reputation of the entire company. Thus, your own views and personality must be subordinated, at least to some extent, to the interests and style of your company. Many companies have specific communication guidelines that show everything from the correct use of the company name to grammatical details. Specifying a desired style of communication is more difficult, however. Observe more experienced colleagues to see how they communicate, and never hesitate to ask for help to make sure you are conveying the appropriate tone. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Controlling Your Style and ToneConversational Plain Language Active or Passive Voice Nature of the Message Relationship with Reader Style is the way you use words to create a certain tone, or overall impression. The right choice depends on the nature of your message and your audience. Although style can be refined during the revision phase, you can save a lot of time by using a style that allows you to achieve the desired tone from the start. Most business messages aim for a conversational tone, using plain language. Plain language is a way of writing and arranging technical materials so that your audience can understand your meaning. Because it is close to the way people normally speak, plain language is easy to understand. Your choice of active or passive voice also affects the tone of your message. Using the active voice produces shorter, stronger sentences and makes your writing more vigorous, concise, and generally easier to understand. The next several slides look at these concepts in more detail. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Using a Conversational ToneStuffy Conversational Unprofessional Enclosed please find the information that was requested during our telephone communication of May 14. Here’s the information you requested during our phone conversation on Friday Here’s the 411 you requested. As you were also informed, … In addition, we have a vast network… FYI, we also have a large group… The tone of your messages can range from informal to conversational to formal. You can achieve a tone that is conversational but still businesslike by following these guidelines: Texting versus writing. The casual, acronym-laden language used in text messaging and IM between friends is not considered professional business writing. Yes, texting is an efficient way for friends to communicate, but if you want to be taken seriously in business, you simply cannot write like this on the job. Avoid stale and pompous language. Business language used to be much more formal than it is today, and some out-of-date phrases still remain. You can avoid using such language if you ask yourself, “Would I say this if I were talking with someone face-to-face?” Furthermore, avoid trying to impress others by using big words, trite expressions, and overly complicated sentences. Such pompous language sounds pretentious. Avoid preaching and bragging. Few things are more irritating than people who think that they know everything and that others know nothing. Be careful with intimacy. Most business messages should avoid intimacy, such as sharing personal details or adopting a causal, unprofessional tone. However, when you do have a close relationship with your audience, such as among the members of a close-knit team, a more intimate tone is sometimes appropriate and even expected. Be careful with humor. Humor can be an effective tool to inject interest into dry subjects or take the sting out of negative news. However, use it with great care, and remember that the humor must be connected to the point you are trying to make. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Use Plain Language Weed out Obsolete PhrasesUp-to-Date Replacement we are in receipt of kindly advise attached please find it has come to my attention the undersigned we received please let me/us know enclosed is or I/we have enclosed it has come to my attention I have just learned or [someone] has just informed me I/we Plain language is a way of presenting information in a simple, unadorned style so that your audience can easily grasp your meaning without struggling through specialized, technical, or convoluted language. The Plain English Campaign (a nonprofit group in England campaigning for clear language) defines plain English as language “that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it.” You can see how this definition supports using the “you” attitude and shows respect for your audience. In addition, plain language can make companies more productive and more profitable simply because people spend less time trying to figure out messages that are confusing or that are not written to meet their needs. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Using the Right Voice Active Voice Passive Voice Easier to ReadConcise Direct Subject + Verb + Object Wordy Tactful Vague Object + Verb + Subject Your choice of active or passive voice also affects the tone of your message. You are using active voice when the subject (“actor”) comes before the verb, and the object (“acted upon”) comes after the verb; for example, “Joe rented the car.” You are using passive voice when the subject follows the verb and the object precedes it; for example, “The car was rented by Joe.” As you can see, the passive voice combines the helping verb to be with a form of the verb that is usually similar to the past tense. Use the active voice to produce shorter, stronger sentences and make your writing more vigorous, concise, and generally easier to understand. The passive voice is not wrong grammatically, but it is often cumbersome or unnecessarily vague, and it can make sentences longer. Nevertheless, using the passive voice can help you demonstrate the “you” attitude in some situations: When you want to be diplomatic about pointing out a problem or error of some kind When you want to point out what is being done without taking or attributing either the credit or the blame When you want to avoid personal pronouns in order to create an objective tone Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Choosing Active or Passive VoiceDull and Indirect in Passive Voice The new procedure was developed by the operations team. Lively and Direct in Active Voice The operations team developed the new procedure. Accusatory or Self-Congratulatory in Active Voice You lost the shipment. More Diplomatic in Passive Voice The shipment was lost. In general, avoid passive voice in order to make your writing lively and direct. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Composing the Message The most successful messages have three important elements: strong words, effective sentences, and coherent paragraphs. The next several slides will review these important elements. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Choosing Strong Words Denotation Connotation Abstraction ConcretenessEffective messages depend on carefully chosen words. Start by paying close attention to correctness. In addition to using words correctly, successful writers and speakers take care to find the most effective words and phrases to use. A word may have both a denotative and a connotative meaning. The denotative meaning is the literal (or dictionary) meaning. The connotative meaning includes all the associations and feelings evoked by the word. In addition, words vary dramatically in their degree of abstraction or concreteness. An abstract word expresses a concept, quality, or characteristic. In contrast, a concrete word stands for something you can see, touch, or visualize. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Finding Words that Communicate WellAnyone who earns a living by crafting words is a wordsmith—including journalists, public relations specialists, editors, and letter and report writers. Unlike poets, novelists, or dramatists, wordsmiths do not strive for dramatic effects. Instead, they are concerned with using language to be clear, concise, and accurate. You can use the following wordsmith techniques to help you write effective workplace messages: Choose powerful words. Choose words that express your thoughts most clearly, specifically, and dynamically. Nouns and verbs are the most concrete, so use them as much as you can. Adjectives and adverbs have obvious roles, but they often evoke subjective judgments. Verbs are especially powerful because they tell what is happening in a sentence, so make them dynamic and specific. Choose familiar words. You will communicate best with words that are familiar to your readers. However, keep in mind that words that are familiar to one reader might be unfamiliar to another. Avoid clichés and buzzwords. Although familiar words are generally the best choice, beware of terms and phrases that are so common that they have become virtually meaningless. Use jargon carefully. Handle technical or professional terms with care. When deciding whether to use technical jargon, let your audience‘s level of knowledge guide you. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Wise Words Potentially Weak Words Good Bad Stronger AlternativesAdmirable, beneficial, desirable, flawless, pleasant, Corrupt, deficient, flawed, inadequate Unfamiliar Words Ascertain Peruse Familiar Words Read, study Clichés and Buzzwords Think outside the box Plain Language Be creative Table 5.5 Selected Examples of Finding Powerful Words Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Choose From Four Types of SentencesSimple Sentence One main clause “Profits increased in the past year.” Compound Sentence Two main clauses “Wage rates have declined by 5 percent, and employee turnover has been high.” Sentences come in four basic types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. A simple sentence has one main clause (a single subject and a single predicate), although it may be expanded by nouns and pronouns serving as objects of the action, and by modifying phrases. A compound sentence has two main clauses that express two or more independent but related thoughts of equal importance, usually joined by a coordinating conjunction. In effect, a compound sentence is a merger of two or more simple sentences (independent clauses) that are related. A complex sentence expresses one main thought (the independent clause) and one or more subordinate thoughts (dependent clauses) that are related to the main thought. These two types of clauses are often separated by a comma. A compound-complex sentence has two main clauses, at least one of which contains a subordinate clause. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Creating Effective SentencesComplex Sentence Independent and Dependent Clauses “Although you may question Gerald’s conclusions, you must admit that his research is thorough.” Compound-Complex Two main clauses, one is subordinate “Profits increased 35 percent in the past year, so although the company faces long-term challenges, I agree that its short-term prospects look quite positive.” Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Using Sentence Style to Emphasize Key ThoughtsEmphasize Ideas in a Sentence Devote more words to them Put them at the beginning or at the end of a sentence Make them the subject of a sentence Place dependent clause at the beginning, middle, or end of sentence In every message of any length, some ideas are more important than others. You can emphasize these key ideas through your sentence style. One obvious technique is to give important points the most space. When you want to call attention to a thought, use extra words to describe it. You can emphasize ideas in a sentence by: Devoting more words to them Putting them at the beginning or at the end of the sentence Making them the subject of the sentence You can adjust the emphasis given to a subordinate idea by placing the dependent clause at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence. Techniques such as these give you a great deal of control over the way your audience interprets what you have to say. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Creating the Elements of a ParagraphTransitions Support Sentences Topic Sentence Paragraph Unity Coherence Readers expect each paragraph to be coherent—to present an idea in a logically connected way. While paragraphs vary widely in length and form, most contain three basic elements: a topic sentence, support sentences to develop the topic, and transitional words and phrases. Every properly constructed paragraph is unified; it deals with a single topic. The sentence that introduces that topic is called the topic sentence. The topic sentence gives readers a summary of the general idea that will be covered in the rest of the paragraph. In informal and creative writing, the topic sentence may be implied rather than stated. In business writing, the topic sentence is generally explicit and is often the first sentence in the paragraph. Support sentences explain, justify, or extend the topic sentence; therefore, they are more specific than the topic sentence. These sentences must relate to the topic sentence and provide enough specific details to make the topic clear. In addition, each sentence must be clearly related to the general idea being developed. Transitions are words or phrases that connect ideas by showing how one thought relates to another. They also help alert the reader to what lies ahead, so that shifts and changes do not cause confusion. In addition to helping readers understand the connections you are trying to make, transitions give your writing a smooth, even flow. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Informative Subheadings As Topic SentencesThe post title or headline serves as a “topic sentence” for the entire article. The subheadings convey the key message of each paragraph that follows. Figure 5.5 Topic Sentences In this blog post, informative subheadings function as topic sentences for the paragraphs that follow. Each paragraph expands on the topic expressed in its subheading, offering examples and more-detailed advice. Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Choosing the Best TransitionAdditional Detail moreover, furthermore, in addition, besides, first, second, third, finally Cause-and-Effect Relationship therefore, because, accordingly, thus, consequently Comparison similarly, here again, likewise, in comparison, still Contrast yet, conversely, whereas, nevertheless, on the other hand, however, but Some transitions serve as mood changers, alerting the reader to a change in mood from the previous material. Some announce a total contrast with what’s gone on before, some announce a causal relationship, and some signal a change in time. Here is a list of transitions frequently used to move readers smoothly between clauses, sentences, and paragraphs: Additional detail: moreover, furthermore, in addition, besides, first, second, third, finally Cause-and-effect relationship: therefore, because, accordingly, thus, consequently, hence, as a result, so Comparison: similarly, here again, likewise, in comparison, still Contrast: yet, conversely, whereas, nevertheless, on the other hand, however, but, nonetheless Condition: although, if Illustration: for example, in particular, in this case, for instance Time sequence: formerly, after, when, meanwhile, sometimes Intensification: indeed, in fact, in any event Summary: in brief, in short, to sum up Repetition: that is, in other words, as mentioned earlier Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
Summary of Objectives This concludes the PowerPoint presentation on Chapter 5, “Writing Business Messages.” During this presentation, we have accomplished the following learning objectives: Identified the four aspects of being sensitive to audience needs when writing business messages Explained how establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image are vital aspects of building strong relationships with your audience Explained how to achieve a tone that is conversational but businesslike, explained the value of using plain language, and defined active and passive voice Described how to select words that are correct and effective Defined the four types of sentences, and explained how sentence style affects emphasis within a message Defined the three key elements of a paragraph, and listed five ways to develop unified, coherent paragraphs Identified the most common software features that help you craft messages more efficiently For more information about these topics, refer to Chapter 5 in Excellence in Business Communication Copyright © 2015 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall
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